Interview by Alessandra Virginia Rossi
Illustration by Thomas Borrely
There are two kinds of people – those who, stumbling upon the @makeupbrutalism Instagram account, will find it disgusting, and those who will feel excited about it. That type of excitement that you could feel in front of an artwork. Eszter Magyar is a makeup activist who is revolutionising the function and fruition of makeup. She does so by also reimagining the ideas of what ugly and beauty mean. It then comes as no surprise that she presents itself on Instagram as ‘the most hated beauty account since 2018’.
After having studied at makeup and fashion academies and worked with all her favourite photographers, she eventually became tired of all this. So, she started the so-called Ugly Make Up Revolution, creating looks with eyelashes that seem punk combs, food, glitter and so on. A series of disturbing images that know how to shock whoever is too busy scrolling pictures of perfect people with perfect lives, finally helping us understand that, after all, that perfection is just boring.
Our theme of the month is Protest. You are definitely part of a big revolution in the makeup world. Against what are you protesting and why?
I want to free the world from the pressure of perfection. I want people to realise that beauty does not exist. I want to build a new value system where creativity, honesty, humor, respect etcetera means a lot more than perfect skin or a flawless smile. I don’t wanna be a hypocrite though, I know, I experienced on myself how hard it is to be free from the social pressure, and I’m practising my new freedom with each day. It’s 2020, I’m a woman – and I don’t have to be beautiful to be successful. That’s my personal revolution.
Did you found makeupbrutalism? And could you tell us briefly the history behind the @uglymakeuprevolution account? Are these two projects linked to each other?
I don’t remember when I first came up with the word MAKEUPBRUTALISM. Fun Fact, I made some workshops about creative and ugly makeup in my former makeup school even before I created the actual account MAKEUPBRUTALISM in 2018. When I started the eye closeups, I uploaded them to my original account @esztermagyarmua and was a huge surprise that people liked it way more than my editorial looks – so I just separated the content and launched the new account. I had no intentions to be honest, just enjoyed the whole experimenting way too much. Finding new questions everyday, searching for new solutions. And with every day I’ve got new and new witnesses who joined me. But of course once you reach a certain number of followers there will be people who try to bring you down with their opinions, comments. Long story short, I started to receive the “this is not makeup” and “this is ugly” comments. That was the first step for uglymakeup. We made some jokes under one of my posts telling “UGLYMAKEUP WILL BE THE NEW KIMKARDASHIAN” and that we need to start a revolution based on that. So this was the joke which manifested itself into a hashtag – and a new account. So yes, there will be no UGLY without MAKEUPBRUTALISM.
The fashion world is constantly changing. When and how have you entered this sector? What were your intentions?
I started my studies in makeup in 2011. After I assisted, I went to another school and from 2013 I worked as a freelancer in Hungary. Within some years I became a well established makeup artist in my country. I worked for all the magazines on a monthly basis, did all the campaigns I wanted, worked with all the photographers I adored. But the truth is I felt I was running in the same circles over and over again and I wanted to level up. I felt Hungary is too small for me and too limiting. The time stands still there and I wanted to evolve myself – so I decided to move.
The thing is with makeup I was never really interested. I was fortunate. Someone told me I should study makeup and I went for it – because I was young and wanted to find my own path – so I gave it a chance (I worked as a stylist assistant for ELLE HUNGARY before). And I was fortunate to find a good school and a wonderful teacher who made me fall in love with makeup. My very first intentions were to find myself. To find something which will make me…ME – if it makes any sense. I went to art schools before and saw all those talented kids with huge passions – I craved for talent myself – but I wasn’t talented enough in anything. I guess that’s why I gave it a try to styling and makeup as well.
Instagram, more than other social media, is full of images that seem to reduce the concept of beauty to the idea of “perfection/being perfect”. How is your project challenging this? What do you hope to reach with it?
This could be some kind of an action-reaction. To show people that there are other options too. That if we accept the “BEAUTY” we should accept different kinds of beauties too. Because now this term is just too exclusive, too limiting. And if everything will become beautiful… nothing will be beautiful anymore. We could destroy the actual concept. Maybe this does not make sense at all for everyone else.
Are there other projects in the fashion industry/cultural sector that share the same ideals of @makeupbrutalism? For instance, is there a person/brand in the fashion and cultural sector that is trying to challenge the standardized idea of beauty? An artist I particularly love – and I believe that is relevant to this debate – is Alexander McQueen, since he managed to challenge the idea of beauty through his work. What do you think about him?
Of course, it’s not a new thing at all. There are a lot of people (designers, hair stylists, chefs, bakers, artists of any kind etcetera) who like to explore their own aesthetics. McQueen was definitely one of these people. I remember that day when he died. Someone came to visit me, I opened the door, she told me: MCQUEEN DIED and I started to cry.
Can you tell me a bit more about your studies/background? How did you become an ugly makeup activist while also being a fashion makeup artist?
As I told before I worked as a makeup artist and long story short I’ve got bored. Beauty was not enough for me anymore. I wanted something else, something more meaningful I guess. I remember when I felt that for the very first time in my life. I was at a shooting, I had a beautiful young model and thought: is that what I do with my life? Making already perfect people even more unreal? That day I went home, sat down and started to experiment with makeup with different textures and shapes.
I think that the ugly makeup revolution has something in common with punk. However, I am not thinking in it as in a punk revival or something similar. In fact, I found it a really contemporary issue. What do you think on this respect? Have you been inspired by any punk icones or musical influences at all?
I was punk myself in my teenage years – I always adored the freedom of that scene in many ways so probably that’s what you recognised as similarity. Of course my taste changed a little bit with years, but there are some bands like The Hellfreaks or Marmozets which can fill me up with energy any time!
Have you ever thought about exhibiting your works in a museum? Where would you like to organise a show and which kind of show would it be? Live performance? Or maybe photography?
That’s one of my biggest dreams and future plans to be honest! I have some ideas in my mind about exhibitions mostly photographic projects and installations. I only need to figure out how it works and to find some curators and/or galleries who are interested in showcasing my work, my point of view. I never had an “artist persona” within me, I could never call myself an artist so that’s another aspect I have to work on. Once I even had a group convo on Makeupbrutalism about art and who is an artist, and I remember I made some enemies with my unpopular opinions. I said if we consider everyone an artist that means no one is an artist. Because being an artist should be a different level in some way. Like not everyone is a makeup artist who can do makeup, not everyone is a chef who can cook. I made a lot of people angry with my opinion. But it is a very complicated topic. Art or even talent.
On your Etsy shop someone can find t-shirts, posters, but also colouring books. Is that an invitation to your audience to be an active part of the process?
It all started with some requests. Comments about how cool some looks would look as a poster or t-shirt. I always visioned these as t-shirts so it was a good feedback to start the Etsy shop. People think because of the 100k followers I make a lot of money, but that’s not true. I do not have any paid sponsorships. (I’m not saying I never would do anything like that, but only with the right products, which definitely did not find me yet) still I have a lot of work with Makeupbrutalism and Uglymakeuprevolution. It became a full time job in the last months, people have no clue how much time it takes to manage everything. The interviews, The content creating , being in touch with all the followers, the etsy shop, The patreon account with all the extra content, like videos…). As a makeup artist, I had no financial income in the last months, so this is my only support system. I felt a bit uncomfortable in the beginning, that’s why I started so late , but I had to realise, this is everyone’s dream, to make money the things we love the most! So I’m happy I started and cannot wait to spot someone in a Makeupbrutalism t-shirt!
The HBO TV show Euphoria was quite revolutionary as it showed a makeup that was real, colourful and totally new in style, managing to reintroduce a more extravagant and exaggerated way of put the makeup on. The idea is that the makeup is not invisible, and is not “hiding imperfections”. It is there and you have to notice it! Do you think that the ugly makeup revolution could actually manage to influence our daily life and the way someone puts the makeup on? How?
I never watched that series, but everyone told me I should. But with uglymakeuprevolution, I hope it can influence some people to be more playful and free with makeup! To have a healthier relationship with ourselves.
Eyebrows as punk combs, food as face decoration, dirty teeths, saliva and other disturbing elements (e.g. fingers and objects in the eyes) are part of the ugly makeup’s world. Where do you find the inspiration from? What does stimulate your creativity?
I’m an overthinker, everything you see on my account (makeupbrutalism) is a manifestation of my thoughts about something. Uglymakeuprevolution is a curated account which means I repost looks from others who used the hashtag uglymakeuprevolution or tagged the account. I don’t know about others’ creative processes, this could be a good idea to ask them how they came up with their looks!
Your woman artist post exposes a really important issue. It states that if you have to specify that an artist is a woman you are basically ghettoizing her. There are so many points of view on Feminism and on this particular topic, but I agree with your vision as I think is the most fair one. Would you mind to tell me more about this?
I went to Tate and saw a Guerrilla Girls “the advantages of being a woman artist” t-shirt. A few weeks earlier I was in my favourite bookstore in Budapest (Írók boltja) and saw lots and lots of art books about “woman” art. Woman photography for example, and photography is a weird example. Its about what lost and what kept in that particular frame of reality we capture. Maybe we all think differently about the world around us, but if we look in the same direction – we see the same things. We see the same landscape , same objects – maybe we will decide differently what we wanna as a focal point – but does this difference came from our Gender ? Will I chose something only because I’m a woman ? Would I chose something else if I would be a man? Can someone tell the difference looking at the results?
Another example: I love to write poems and I wrote a lot. I had a little guerrilla action back in the days when I made a little book called Wanika, there was 5-6 poems about sex. I just left those everywhere in the city. Someone who knew me found one and after he realised I made them was totally in shock – I WOULD NEVER THOUGHT THIS WAS WRITTEN BY A WOMAN he told me – and why? Probably because I’m a lesbian and wrote about other women openly. People have these notions about how a man or woman should behave/think or react. Maybe it will be the time to let these go. People told me these books are great because they highlight women artist who else would be still hidden and I agree with that. I just don’t think we should keep women artists hidden anymore. If I could reach the level of an artist I want to be an artist. Not a woman artist, not a queer artist, not a blonde artist, not an catlover artist, not a makeup artist: just an artist.
Makeup is also becoming an important symbol of empowerment and freedom among queer and LGBT+ people who see in a very evident makeup a way to express who they are in freely and joyful way. This is so interesting ,thinking that makeup was born as a way of “hiding something”, don’t you think?
Most people use makeup to hide, but we can use that to reveal as well or to expend etcetera. It’s up to us how we use it. For example, I do not use makeup at all and I don’t believe in “MAKEUP SHOWS OUR BETTER VERSION OF OURSELVES” either. I’m totally okay with my features. I lost my dad years ago and live in a different country as my mom. Every time when I look into the mirror I can see them in my own features. That’s more important for being pretty for others.
Makeupbrutalism turns makeup into an art form. Do you think that makeup is ready to actually develop itself into a mature artform? Are we going to consider makeup as painting, sculpture or architecture in the future?
I just hope I can turn makeup into art one day. Because it’s so interesting, makeup has so many levels, It has its own history which is the same old as humankind. It’s communication, coding, it’s art, it’s everything. I think humankind has the superpowers to level up anything and turn it into art – if I don’t have that in me, someone else will probably in the near future. To rip makeup art out of its “fashion” context.